Allergic to semen?

Dear Alice!

I am not actually worried but simply curious. When petting with my boyfriend and getting in contact with his sperm, my skin turns slightly red where his cum touches me. Am I allergic, or is there perhaps any other explanation? I am 24 years old and female.

Thank you in advance.

— Sex Flush

Dear Sex Flush,

Sounds like this petting may be getting you all hot and bothered and not necessarily in a pleasant way! You could be right — you may have an allergy to the proteins in your boyfriend's semen, also known as human seminal plasma protein hypersensitivity (SPH). Depending on the location of the itching, it's also possible that you may be experiencing symptoms of an infection. Given that there are multiple potential explanations, meeting with a health care provider may help you understand the cause of your irritation. 

As for the reason for the redness, it's possible to have an allergic reaction to common proteins found in most people's semen or to have allergies to a specific person's proteins. Reactions to contact with semen may include localized pain, itching, redness and swelling, or systemic responses, such as hives or trouble breathing. Most symptoms typically start within 20 to 30 minutes of contact but may vary per person (sometimes taking as long as a couple of hours) and may last for hours or days. The severity of the reaction depends on your personal body chemistry. Additionally, if it's a semen allergy, people can generally have sex with their partner without symptoms when using a condom.

If you're experiencing redness or itching around the vagina, other potential explanations may include vaginitis, a yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis, or a sexually transmitted infection (STI), such as chlamydia. You may find it helpful to check in with a health care provider if you believe it may be related to an infection. On the other hand, a semen allergy can be officially determined through skin tests administered by a medical professional. If you do have a semen allergy, treatment options may include using a condom or desensitization. A condom can keep come from contacting your skin during vaginal sex or hand jobs. If the redness from petting isn't causing too much discomfort or irritation, you could just try to minimize your contact with the semen — catching it in a small towel might keep most of it off your skin. Also, there are a couple possible methods that can be used to desensitize a person to semen which can reduce the allergic reaction, or alternatively, an over-the-counter antihistamine may be recommended.

You note that you aren't worried about this right now. However, if you develop more serious reactions or suspect you might have an STI, you may want to seek out some further guidance from a medical professional. Until then, hopefully you can reassure your boyfriend that the redness isn't personal, and more often that not, you're flushing with delight in his presence.

Last updated Oct 18, 2019
Originally published Apr 18, 1994

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